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An Explanation of Releases

Releases. A release is an on-site discharge of a toxic chemical to the environment. This includes emissions to the air, discharges to bodies of water, releases at the facility to land, as well as contained disposal into underground injection wells. Releases are reported to TRI by media type. The left side of Figure 1-1 illustrates these release types.

Releases to Air. Releases to air are reported either as stack or fugitive emissions. Stack emissions are releases to air that occur through confined air streams, such as stacks, vents, ducts, or pipes. Fugitive emissions are all releases to air that are not released through a confined air stream. Fugitive emissions include equipment leaks, evaporative losses from surface impoundments and spills, and releases from building ventilation systems.

Releases to Water. Releases to water include discharges to streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water. This includes releases from contained sources, such as industrial process outflow pipes, or open trenches. Releases due to runoff, including stormwater runoff, are also reportable to TRI.

Underground Injection. Underground injection is a contained release of a fluid into a subsurface well for the purpose of waste disposal. Wastes containing TRI chemicals are injected into either Class I wells or Class V wells. Class I wells are used to inject liquid hazardous wastes or dispose of industrial and municipal wastewaters beneath the lowermost underground source of drinking water. Class V wells are generally used to inject non-hazardous fluid into or above an underground source of drinking water. Currently, TRI reporting does not distinguish between these two types of wells, although there are important differences in environmental impact between these two methods of injection.

Releases to Land. Releases to land occur within the boundaries of the reporting facility. Releases to land include disposal of toxic chemicals in landfills (in which wastes are buried), land treatment/application farming (in which a waste containing a listed chemical is applied to or incorporated into soil), surface impoundments (which are uncovered holding areas used to volatilize and/or settle waste materials), and other land disposal methods (such as spills, leaks, or waste piles).

Source: USEPA 1994 Toxics Release Inventory Public Data Release (EPA 745-R-96-002, June 1996).

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